BY: ANDREW SVEDA, CONTRIBUTOR
Cibolo Creek Ranch. Shafter, Texas. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, 79. February 13, 2016.
That was Justice Scalia’s last day. We, as Americans, have all mourned the passing of a wonderful gentleman who dedicated his life to the service of our great nation. But still, after over a year, his seat remains vacant in the Supreme Court.
Despite the Obama Administration’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, Senate Republicans felt compelled to consider the will of the citizens in the 2016 Election before voting or even scheduling hearings on the nominee. Republicans later saw justification in these concerns as Donald Trump was elected that November, persuading Conservatives with his promise of appointing Judges that fit this ideology.
But now there is no time for excuses. Washington must cooperate to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice, specifically Trump’s appointee, Judge Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch, 49, has had plenty of experience at the bar. Most notably, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Additionally, he has impressed both sides of the aisle with his vast knowledge of the law and his ability to act justly upon it. In a recent New York Times article, Neal Katyal, a Solicitor General for Barack Obama, penned that a Justice like Gorsuch “brings a sense of fairness and decency” back to the Supreme Court. Furthermore, he believes that his “temperament…suits the nation’s highest court” as well.
Trump’s nominee has surely surprised Democrats. Even so, most Democrats are still agitated that the Republicans did not even consider Judge Garland for a seat in the Supreme Court, and rightly so. As our Editor-In-Chief, Nick Sawicki, pointed out last year:
The Republicans are foolish to play hardball with Obama in refusing to even have hearings. The Senate has a duty to perform hearings on Supreme Court nominees, regardless of their political party affiliation or odds of replacing Scalia. Failing to even have a symbolic hearing gives credence to liberal accusations that conservatives are the cause of so much gridlock in Washington.
Although I understand the Republicans’ excuses, I must side with Mr. Sawicki on this matter. Additionally, the complete rejection of the highly-qualified Judge Garland was completely based on partisan lines, only furthering the political divide in America. So, my question is why are Republicans so surprised that Senate Democrats, led by Senator Chuck Schumer (D, NY), would organize in an attempt to block this nomination?
However, in an attempt to mend partisan qualms, nine Democrats have called for hearings and a vote on Judge Gorsuch. Although they also believe that the majority party abandoned its obligations in the Senate, they are extending a hand of friendship, not necessarily a vote, but a gesture of bipartisan effort to give Judge Gorsuch a fair chance. As Senator Joe Manchin (D, WV) declared in a CNN interview, “If you want the third branch of government to work, then you’ve got to have a nine-member Supreme Court, so if Republicans did something and now Democrats are going to do something, two wrongs don’t make a right”.
However, the race to garnish enough support to “mount a filibuster” is approaching its final stretch, as hearings will begin on March 20th. Liberals specifically oppose Gorsuch’s Conservative stances. In addition to being a genuine supporter of Scalia and originalism, Gorsuch sided with Hobby Lobby in a 2013 case concerning religious liberty and the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Gorsuch also notably penned The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, where he stressed his staunch opposition to this issue.
Despite these Conservative stances, Democratic Senators must also bear in mind that Gorsuch has exhibited a pro-immigrant stance (in cases such as De Niz Robles v. Lynch and Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch) and a consistent record of checking executive powers. In a time where so many have questioned Trump’s use of the Executive Branch and immigration policy, Gorsuch’s “deep conviction about the role of the judiciary in preserving the rule of law” is certainly comforting to moderate Democrats who are still unsure about their vote.
However, Gorsuch still faces an uncertain vote. On one hand, Gorsuch could receive 60+ votes, which means getting support from at least 8 Democrats, or he will be filibustered. However, the likelihood of the first option may be decreasing.
In a harsh attempt to exact their dominance over moderate Senators, liberal groups have threatened these officers with a real predicament, a 2018 Primary challenge. With 23 Democratic seats (plus both independents) on the line next year, Tim Tagaris, former fundraiser for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I, VT) 2016 Presidential Campaign, wrote in a tweet that “there’s good $$$ out there for primary challenges in 2018”. Neil Sroka of Democracy for America and the cinema director Michael Moore have also joined in the bullying of our Senators. They believe that if Gorsuch receives support from any Democrat, they are not “a true progressive” and are out of touch with the Democratic Party. The Democratic base has no respect for the conscience of the elected, and it then seeks to censor and threaten them into submission. As the leader of the group Credo Action, Murshed Zaheed, advised, “We want the Democrats to act as the opposition party, not as the minority party”.
The chasm between our nation’s major political parties is only widening. Nonetheless, if we encourage centrist Democrats to act on what they believe is right, there may be a chance at some cooperation during the Trump Administration. This will certainly not fix the problem that is dividing our nation and ourselves, but it could at least be a step.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D, MO) has brought this mindset into the new Congress. She admitted, “They [Democrat base] think I should be voting against all of Trump’s nominees, and of course, I’m judging each nominee on its own merit”. This is exactly the kind of attitude that is getting harder and harder to find on both sides of the aisle, but is exactly what we need in Washington today. We need to have Republican and Democratic Senators willing to break from party lines when they firmly believe something. Isn’t that why they were elected? Did we not elect them based on their principles, and not just their party’s? I hope so.
These Democrats need our encouragement to vote for Judge Neil Gorsuch. He is exactly what the Supreme Court needs: a man of integrity, skill, experience, and a strong conviction to his values and the United States.
Nevertheless, in the days approaching the hearings, I suggest that Republicans listen to the concerns of their colleagues, and answer them sincerely and appropriately. But if Gorsuch does receive less than the needed 60 votes, partisanship will have again won the fight. It is for this reason that I urge Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY) to disobey the President’s advice: “If we end up with that gridlock, I would say, ‘If you can, Mitch, go nuclear’”. In this quote, Trump is specifically referring to the Senate’s “nuclear option”, where the rules of the Senate can be changed so that Supreme Court nominations would only need a majority to be confirmed. This ridiculous solution, although allowing for the immediate confirmation of Gorsuch, would have disastrous ramifications on our society. It would allow for Justices to be supported merely along party lines, further opening the wound of partisanship and could allow for a wider split of ideologies in the Supreme Court.
Our nation must face the growing predicament of partisanship. We, as Americans, must do all that we can to encourage all our elected officials, local to national, to vote on what their conscience tells them, not what the party orders them to do. Our nation relies on this practice.
During Gorsuch’s vote, we shall see if moderate Democrats will vote for the incredibly qualified nominee like I suggest, or succumb to the will of the Democratic Party.